This first weekend of February saw Cape Town at its most aurally attention deficit since the beginning of 2014. There was a mid-city electronic music festival running from Friday to Sunday; as well as a performance by a Grammy nominated Kendrick Lamar in Belleville falling on the same day as the Mad Decent Block Party on Sunday. Superficially, the weekend was a three-way duel for the ears and pockets of audiences between sSHADOWORKSs and Red Bull who are in the third year of putting on the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF), Airey Scott and Miller Boomtown’s Kendrick Lamar performance, and Seed Experiences and Ol Meca Tequila’s Mad Decent Block Party.
At a more significant level, these were three events facing their own individual challenges and each with different lifespans. For example, the CTEMF is an annual event which showcases local and international electronic music, and this year they faced the task of relocating their festival from the rooftop of the Breakwater parking garage at the V&A Waterfront to the Grand Parade in the city centre. Festivals and events that relocate either make it, or they fall into irrelevance, with their websites sometimes adding to the internet garbage heap.
At the end of the Major Lazer headlined Mad Decent Block Party not far from the Grand Parade, Dj Walshy Fire says ‘Thank you Cape Town, see you next year’. Whether the Mad Decent Block Party will be staged again in 2015 is a mystery, one which can be partially solved by measuring the popularity of Major Lazer and other Mad Decent record label artists a year from now.
Sibot’s is a production and performance career which has seen raging popularity and near obscurity in unpredictable portions. To his credit, though, he has often managed to carve out a niche for his ever-changing musical penchants. His performance at the Mad Decent Block Party connected with an audience who were learning their musical vowels when he was making his iconic Super Evil hit. Dressed in all black, with a black mask pinned with a handful of eyes, Sibot played a live set which showcased his experience without alienating his audience.
Flosstradamus gave the audience a taste of what to expect from the main act with their energetic performance. The duo from the windy city had the venue bouncing gingerly on its toes and made thoughts of the, by then imminent, rain irrelevant. J2K, the mic swinger of the duo, spent most of their set on the same table Diplo would pulverise during the Major Lazer set.
Dilion Francis followed the Flosstradamus set and brought the atmosphere down by two notches. The unfortunate thing about Moombahton music, which is an interesting melange of raggaeton and house music, is that it is often difficult to carry an entire set with that one genre, in South Africa at least. Dilion Francis’s set could have used more diversity, more research on the likes and dislikes of the Cape Town crowd.
In the early 1990s Buju Banton released a song called Batty Rider which extolled the nyash of a woman who wears the wears shorts that show the most of her gluteus maximus. At the Mad Decent Block Party word had gotten around that the batty rider was to be the uniform for the women in attendence. Batty riders and the eyes ogling them moved closer to the stage as preparations were being hastily made for the main act. The Major Lazer stage team can not be commended enough for shortening the time between the opening acts and main act. Their professionalism became the opening act, it showed what kind of professionalism was to be expected from Major Lazer.
For an act with scores of hits stretching over a five year trajectory, it would have been very easy for Major Lazer to play their hits and go back home. Instead of that, Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire came on stage in suits that they were planning to discord soon after, along with two dancers that had more wine in their waists than the best Cape Merlot.
Their high-octane set included some incredibly rare dubplates. For those clueless of the dancehall world, a dubplate in this genre is a recording of a songs vocals with the name of the selector who comissioned that dubplate inserted at the most appropriate moments. There are some DJs who only voice dubplates on very rare occasions. Damian Marley and Konshens belong to that group of artists. Major Lazer played dubplates from each of these artists as well as from RDX and the latest raggae cliche Snoop Lion. Their set also included Elephant Man and Mavado remixes which got disappointingly placid receptions from the crowd.
If Major Lazer’s entire set had been put on mute, it would have been entertaining for the carnivalesque fanfare that was part of their show. There were streamers, smoke machines, inflatable toys, shirts flung in the air and some cued dance moves for the crowd to make the Major Lazer act thoroughly entertaining from minute one to curtain call. When the ears had had their fill and the eyes tired of ogling the spectacle, and spectacular bums on display, only then could Cape Town weigh up the pros and cons of joining Diplo et al at the official afterparty at Fiction on Long Street.